No Madagascar adventure would be complete without a glimpse of its most iconic inhabitants, the lemurs. Mission accomplished, expand the thrills with helicopter rides over remote landscapes, sea voyages in search of humpback whales, snorkelling sessions over brimming coral reefs and a sunset visit to the most photographed avenue of trees in the world.
Diving & Snorkelling
Deep Sea Fishing
FEEL THE THRILL OF LEMUR TREKKING
Of all of Madagascar’s one-of-a-kind wildlife, it’s the 32 species of lemur that have most captured the public imagination. You’ll find these endemic primates all around the island, but there are several not-to-be-missed hotspots where sightings are more likely, though never completely guaranteed. One of the best places to spot lemurs is Andasibe-Mantadia National Park in the east of the country; there are eleven types in its steamy primaeval forests, from raucous indri to shy avahi. Base yourself at Vakona Lodge, which has a population of habituated diademed sifakas and more. Add other national parks, such as Ranomafana, Andringitra and Isalo, to your wishlist as some species are unique to specific areas. There are even lemurs on some of the islands in the north, including several in the Nosy Be archipelago, and in remote corners of the semi-arid south such as Berenty Reserve and the sacred forests around Mandrare River Camp.
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GO WHALE WATCHING AT ILE SAINTE-MARIE
Once the haunt of pirates, the spindle-shaped island of Sainte-Marie, or Nosy Boraha, off Madagascar’s east coast is now a popular jumping-off point for whale-watching adventures. From late June to around the end of September, the warm waters of the channel between the mainland and its long western shore become a breeding ground for humpback whales – Megaptera novaeangliae to give them their scientific name. Spot some of these impressive marine mammals, which can weigh as much as 30 tonnes, on a fascinating boat trip run in association with local conservationists. During your three hours or so out in the channel, you’ll learn from experts all about the whales’ migrations from the Antarctic to the Baie de Tintingue and back, their mating behaviours and how they raise their young, and perhaps even catch sight of a mother swimming with her calf if you’re here in August.
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GO DIVING AND SNORKELLING
Crystal-clear seas, protected marine sanctuaries and the world’s fifth-largest coral reef: not for nothing is Madagascar known for its superb diving and snorkelling. One of the best places to gaze below the waves is the Nosy Be archipelago off the north-west coast, where you can hop between islets framed by seagrass meadows as well as coral, spotting hawksbill turtles and an array of colourful fish. A little to the north, tiny Nosy Tsarabanjina – home to the laidback-luxe Constance Tsarabanjina – is a gateway to the equally teeming reefs of the Mitsio islands. Diving and snorkelling enthusiasts will be eager to explore the 280-mile barrier and fringing reef that lies off Madagascar’s less-trodden south-western shore between Morombe and Itampolo, where ancient coelacanths are just some of the extraordinary inhabitants. If you’ve yet to try your hand at scuba diving, head east or north. Both Princesse Bora Lodge & Spa on Île Sainte-Marie and Miavana on Mosy Anko have PADI-approved centres where you can learn how to do it in idyllic locations.
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TRY YOUR HAND AT DEEP SEA FISHING
Discover your inner Ernest Hemingway on a private guided fishing trip in the ocean off Madagascar’s north-west coast. Spend a day, or just a few action-packed hours, cruising the waters around the Mitsio and Radama archipelagos, not far from Nosy Be to the north and south respectively. Your skipper will steer you to the areas that provide the best chance to hook hard-fighting trevally, yellow tuna, sailfish, snapper and marlin, while your guide will be on hand to do everything from attaching lures to the line to offering support to younger, older and novice anglers. Celebrate your catch with a well-earned drink or two (included in the price); if you’ve opted for a full day, you’ll also be served a delicious lunch to power you through the afternoon.
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ENJOY A WIDE ARRAY OF WATERSPORTS
Thanks to its 3,000-mile coastline and scattering of islands, Madagascar could have been made for watersports, and the exclusive lodges and intimate resorts we recommend offer a tempting array of location-appropriate activities. At Tsara Komba on tranquil Nosy Komba, for instance, there are stand-up paddleboards and traditional dugout canoes for gentle meanders around a bay where dolphins cruise. Perched on a rugged peninsula, Anjajavy is all but surrounded by the pristine waters of a marine reserve, where you can go windsurfing, catamaran sailing, kayaking or paddleboarding, take your first steps in water-skiing or head out on a traditional sailing boat. If you like your watersports with a hefty dose of adrenaline, May to September is kite-surfing season in Île Sainte-Marie, with equipment and tuition available from Bora Kite, or you could go wakeboarding or water-skiing instead.
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VISIT THE AVENUE OF THE BAOBABS AT SUNSET
With their sturdy water-storing trunks and compact crowns, baobabs have a distinctive and arresting appearance. Of the eight species of these ‘upside-down trees’, six are unique to Madagascar, where they have a special place in the culture. While you can find these long-lived deciduous trees throughout the island, the most famous examples form a soaring guard of honour along a stretch of unpaved road close to the west-coast town of Morondava. The Avenue of Baobabs comprises around 20 or so 100-foot-high Grandidier’s baobabs thought to be about 800 years old, which tower above the surrounding paddyfields. They’re an impressive spectacle at any time of the day, but particularly at sunset when they are silhouetted against the rosy sky. Less than five miles away is another extraordinary sight, the Baobab Amoureux, two trees of another endemic species whose trunks are completely entwined.
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FLY HIGH ON A SCENIC HELICOPTER RIDE
See Madagascar from a different perspective by taking to the air. Thanks to Miavana’s pair of Robinson 66 helicopters and expert pilots, you can hop to extraordinary places in an hour or less. The emerald forests of Daraina Reserve, the only place you can find golden-crowned sifaka, are around 50 minutes away; the photogenic rocky spikes of Tsingy Rouge take about the same time to reach; or you could be wandering through a rare forest of soaring endemic baobabs after only 60 minutes. Alternatively, you may prefer a sundowner on a remote coastal ridge that’s only accessible by helicopter, from where the views over the sea and the Levens archipelago are sublime. The signature two-hour Northern Circuit flight gives you a birds-eye view of Madagascar’s unspoiled far north, or you could create a bespoke itinerary which combines, say, lemur spotting with a picnic on a castaway island.
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